Changing the Way We Help Underwater Homeowners | foreclosure

This opinion piece by LeeAnn Hall originally appeared in the Seattle Times.

By LeeAnn Hall and Will Pittz

While the recession officially ended in 2009, there are still over 9 million households across the country with homes worth less than the value of their mortgage. There are still neighborhoods in Seattle where more than 20 percent of homes are underwater.

How many more Seattle families need to lose their homes in the foreclosure crisis that continues year after year? There are solutions, but they need champions, and leadership – both locally and nationally.

Advocates are pushing the Seattle City Council to pursue a local principal reduction program to reset the value of mortgages based on their current market value. That local action can help thousands of homeowners in Seattle, but it must include strong buy-in from the City Council and include mechanisms to encourage big banks to participate. Proposals are outlined in a recent report by Reset Seattle and the Alliance for a Just Society.

Thankfully, members of the City Council are making progress. The council commissioned a short study on the feasibility of principal reduction in Seattle, and council members have publically expressed their intent to pursue a program similar to one in Oregon. This action comes too late for homeowners who have already lost their homes, but it can still help many families throughout the city with underwater mortgages.

While Seattle is making slow progress, other families throughout the country also need champions. Leadership was expected from Mel Watt, the recently appointed director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

For more than 20 years, Mel Watt served the people of North Carolina as a member of Congress. During that time, he earned a reputation of being on the side of working families in his district, including those who were struggling to make ends meet. Watt advocated for struggling homeowners, co-sponsored mortgage reform, and promoted affordable housing.

However, as director of FHFA, Watt has done an about-face. While he once urged the president to enact principal reduction, he has done nothing to take steps within his power to make that assistance a reality. Such steps would not even require congressional approval.

It’s too late for millions of homeowners across the country, it’s not too late for leaders at the local and national level to step up and take action for those homeowners still struggling.

The foreclosure problem hasn’t gone away; the need for assistance remains critical in Seattle and nationally, especially in urban neighborhoods and among people of color. In many cases, these mortgages were the result of predatory lending practices in the years leading up to the market’s collapse.

By not acting, Watt is making matters worse. Local leaders on the Seattle City Council are considering a great step to help homeowners in Seattle and especially communities of color, as in the International District and Delridge, that still have high rates of underwater mortgages. However, both local and national action must happen soon before more families lose their homes.

It’s time for Seattle to move quickly toward a local principal reduction program, and it is well past time for FHFA Director Watt to remember the work that landed him in the nation’s capital and take action to help homeowners.

LeeAnn Hall is executive director of the Seattle-based Alliance for a Just Society. Will Pittz is executive director of Washington Community Action Network

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Florida Leaders Hear Concerns of Main Street Members

Written by Steve Rouzer from The Main Street Alliance.

Paid sick leave, tipped minimum wage, and women’s health were some of the issues discussed when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited Orlando, Florida for the Working Women Town Hall earlier this month. Pelosi was joined by Congressman Alan Grayson and several community leaders for the event, sponsored by the Main Street Alliance of Florida. The Working Women Town Hall focused on the principles of When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families.

During opening statements, the Alliance for a Just Society’s Women’s Health Report Card was discussed, and the Representatives were appalled to hear that Florida received a D grade on women’s health overall and an F when it came specifically to health coverage for women. As the event progressed, several community members had an opportunity to address the Representatives and panel of leaders, including two local small business owners.

Martin Heroux, of Armando y Jorge’s Orlandonan Hot Sauce, asked the panel what could be done about the sub-minimum wage provided for tipped employees in the food service industry, a field dominated by women. As a business owner, Heroux is committed to never paying low wages to his employees, or forcing them to rely on the generosity of customers to make ends meet. Heroux wanted to know what could be done to alleviate the discordance between the tipped minimum wage and small business owners who wish to be able to provide their employees with more.

Several members of the panel responded, agreeing that the fight to raise the minimum wage must include efforts to raise tipped wages and level the playing field for small businesses that know their employees are worth more than $4.91 an hour.  Their vision for Florida is for the state to join seven other states in abolishing tipped wages and requiring employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage to all employees.

Ricardo McQueen, President and Owner of Food Health and Environmental Safety discussed earned sick time and the need to incentivize businesses to offer paid sick leave. As a leader in the food safety industry, McQueen discussed the health concerns surrounding sick employees being forced to work, as well as the disabling economic impact of having to lose a day or more of pay, particularly for low wage workers. Even though Orange County achieved the daunting task of getting earned sick time placed on the ballot in the August primary and voters overwhelmingly supported the measure, Florida’s residents are still left without mandated earned sick time due to preemptive measures taken by State Legislature, conveniently backed by big businesses.

Pressure from large corporations headquartered in Central Florida, such as Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants, led to a controversial decision to nullify the work done by the Florida Main Street Alliance and other local organizations to secure paid sick leave.

Orange County Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell responded directly to McQueen’s testimony, saying that we must continue the dialogue surrounding earned sick time and ensure that low wage workers in particular are given the right to take off work to care for a sick child without losing pay. Russell suggested forming community based support groups for new and young mothers who can rely on each other for childcare assistance in times of need, helping to reduce the financial impact of a child getting sick. She went on to discuss the need to secure maternity leave for new mothers, and shared her personal story of having a baby while in office and only being able to take off work for a mere six weeks.

Orlando City Councilwoman Regina Hill addressed McQueen’s comments as well, stating that she supports measures that would require companies contracted by the city of Orlando to offer paid sick leave and maternity leave. Councilwoman Hill said we need to reward companies that are committed to their employees and incentivize high road business practices.

Hopefully continued dedication to alleviating these issues coupled with the support of officials will result in better workplace and healthcare conditions for women in Florida in the future.

From Oregon to New York, Law Officers Just Say ‘No’ to ICE

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Photo by NYC Council/William Alatriste

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Photo by NYC Council/William Alatriste

Last week the New York City Council passed legislation, 41-6, stopping the New York Police Department and the New York City Department of Corrections from honoring detainer requests from ICE, unless they are backed by a federal warrant.

“Today is a historic day. After five years of work, New York City will put an end to the collaboration with ICE that damages immigrant families and hurts our communities,” said Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York told the Immigrant Defense Project.

After campaigning for the last five years, our affiliate Make the Road New York, has seen a great victory

Further, ICE has been evicted from maintaining operations at Rikers Island Correctional Facility, drawing a strict and clear boundary between ICE and local authorities.

While congress has failed at the federal level to enact comprehensive immigration reform, local jurisdictions from Oregon to New York have taken matters into their own hands to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all of their community members.

In April, a federal court ruling by Judge Janice Stewart in Oregon ruled that holding immigrants in jail extra time at the request of ICE is not required by law. Sheriff Daniel Staton of Multnomah County, along with sheriffs in Washington, and Clackamas counties quickly announced that they were opting out of ICE holds, and quickly informed leaders at our affiliate Center for Intercultural Organizing, of their decision.

Within a week, nine more counties in Oregon, then others around the country, joined them in making similar announcements.

And while it was the ruling of a federal judge that ultimately pushed city and county law enforcement to change their policies, it was the activists throughout the country who made the ground ready for the change. For years, organizers and brave community members have fought to show that ICE holds are not mandatory.

However, without federal reform, people are still being detained, families are still being torn apart, and children are going hungry when their providers are needlessly jailed.

The call to action still remains: Comprehensive immigration reform is needed, and it is needed now.

Daley Weekly: Libero Temporarily in the Hot Seat

This might be the Daley Weekly, but I’m no Bill Daley.

I am Libero Della Piana, filling in temporarily on the Daley Weekly.

As Bill pointed out in last week’s entry, I am in the hot seat for the next few weeks as Bill goes for a much-deserved vacation. While I can hardly fill his seat, I hope to keep it warm for him while he’s gone.

I’ll try to identify important (or at least interesting to me) political and economic trends in the country and the world with a wry sense of humor and a skeptic’s eye. Well, maybe not as wry or skeptical, but I can try.

Also, as I am not deep in the swamps of the District of Columbia as Bill is, I will report on Washington from afar and add a little Gotham to my weekly musings. As far as I know there is not as of yet a complaint department here at the Daley Weekly, so please hold your grievances, at least ‘til Bill returns.

–       Libero Della Piana

Benjamin Bradlee, 1921-2014

Ben Bradlee, the seminal editor of the Washington Post, who published the Pentagon Papers, passed away this week at the age of 93. Bradlee received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year from President Obama.

In the face of White House threats, Bradlee encouraged Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s daring reporting on the Watergate scandal. Bradlee and those two reporters almost certainly helped change the course of U.S. history by at least hastening the exit of President Richard Nixon.

Bradlee’s passing was noted not just for his journalistic work, but also for what he represents. He was an archetypal newsman and editor, the kind seemingly rare in today’s news biz. To the veteran anchors and newsmakers, the principled, hard-nosed newsroom editor, ready to buck the powers-that-be and back his reporters, is going the way of the dodo bird. It is with deep respect and perhaps more than a bit of nostalgia that reporters and pundits bid Bradlee adieu.

Police and Prisons

October 22 was the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality. The annual day of protest took on special importance this year just two months after the high-profile killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Energized and enraged from the #FergusonOctober weekend of action a few weeks ago, activists from Atlanta, to Los Angeles, to Oakland to St. Louis took to the streets to call for justice in Brown’s killing and to say, simply, “Black Lives Matter.”

Dramatic actions to block freeways and city streets drew more press than the Day of Action has probably ever received and generated some dramatic photos.

This is on the heels of the leaking of information from the Grand Jury empanelled in the shooting of Michael Brown. For the first time we learned of police office Darren Wilson’s account of events when his testimony was leaked and reported by the New York Times. Then the autopsy was leaked. Both incidents hinted at an eventual non-indictment for Wilson, an eventuality that heightened tensions in the St. Louis are over last weekend.

Protestors and community residents continue calls for indictment of Wilson or a special prosecutor in the case, and for Department of Justice civil rights charges. The announcement that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will create an independent commission to look into the case. Tempers remain high.

Giving ICE the cold shoulder

Meanwhile around the country the “detainer” policies of the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) are being rebuffed. ICE has been in the habit of forcing local police to hold immigrant suspects to await deportation by immigration officials – even if they would not otherwise be detained.

But following some high-profile court cases that decided detainer holds were either unconstitutional or not mandatory, more and more municipalities and counties are pulling the plug on the cozy relationship between local cops and ICE.

Riker’s Island, New York City’s main jail, had an infamous ICE office where immigrants awaiting trial could be rerouted straight to deportation. But as of this week, thanks to AJS affiliate Make the Road New York, and other groups, the ICE office at Riker’s Island is closed and hardly a single county in New York still participates in cooperation with the unnecessary and patently unfair practice that was ripping families apart.

Ebola

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a tragedy leaning towards disaster at this point. But after listening to some of the fear mongers in the U.S., I find myself laughing, not crying or cowering in my closet.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) thinks the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Iraq will infect themselves with Ebola and make their way to the U.S. to destroy Western Civilization. Never mind that intelligence and scientific experts say the idea is ridiculous, the good Senator has just exposed our Achilles’ heel to the wrongdoers. Sounds like he’s playing for the other team.

Then there is Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) who have sounded a false alarm about Mexican and Central American immigrants bringing Ebola over the Southern Border. I have to give Bill Daley credit on this one. Your very own Daley Weekly scooped this story a few weeks ago, predicting that anti-immigrant demagogues would attack refugee children at the border as Ebola spreaders. Of course, influenza kills between 3,000 and 49,000 in the U.S. each year, but we have priorities, right?

While the anti-scientific nonsense is flying on cable news and the halls of Washington, U.S. authorities have essentially contained Ebola after early mistakes and delays plagued Ebola response. As of this writing, one of the two nurses who contracted the disease in Dallas has been ruled Ebola-free, and a small number of others who might have been exposed to Ebola in Dallas have all been given a clean bill of health after 21 days of quarantine.

Now the first case has surfaced in New York, a doctor who recently returned from Africa has been diagnosed with Ebola. Medical officials say they have had the benefit of learning from mistakes in Dallas and are urging residents not to panic.

Airport screenings have begun in U.S. airports as well, and the CDC and White House have so far resisted the pressure to ban flights from West Africa.

Voting Rights

The Supreme Court has had a number of cases this term about laws that threaten voting rights. Ever since their 2013 ruling that gutted the enforcement of the1965 Voting Rights Act, it has been open season on voters in some parts of the country. No Tea Party-controlled legislature worth its salt missed the opportunity to pass a voter ID law, bar student voting, or otherwise try to limit the democratic franchise.

Some of those laws have made their way back to SCOTUS in the last weeks before the midterm elections. In an apparently contradictory flurry of rulings, the Supremes blocked voter-ID law in Wisconsin, blocked early voting in Ohio, and restored same-day voter registration in North Carolina.

Then there was Texas. The Roberts Court upheld the appellate court’s decision that restrictive voting laws in Texas were constitutional despite the fact they had been ruled intentionally discriminatory at trial, called an “unconstitutional poll tax” by the judge, and will disenfranchise an estimated 600,000 voters, largely blacks and Latinos.

The Nov 4, 2014 midterm elections should perhaps get an asterisk next to it:

*Millions barred from voting.

Elections

Which reminds us that the midterm election is just a little over a week away and speculation and spin has reached a fever pitch.

A few weeks ago it looked like there might be a chance the Democrats would buck all predictions and trends and hold the Senate. Mr. Daley himself even posited that an Independent Caucus might lead the Senate if neither the Dems nor the GOP can get to a majority on their own.

But the much-lauded FiveThirtyEight blog of Nate Silver gives the Republicans a 63.9 percent chance to win a majority in the Senate.

It might all come down to turn out, but more on that next week.

“While We Celebrate a $15 Minimum Wage, Let’s Remember It’s Not Enough”

There has been a lot of buzz around the Seattle City Council’s historic adoption of a $15 minimum wage, the highest in the nation. Now there’s also excitement over last week’s passage of a living wage ordinance by the King County Council that sets the same wage floor for county employees and contractors.

Yes, $15 is more than twice the federal minimum wage, which stands at a paltry $7.25 an hour and that Congress has failed to increase for five years and counting.

But despite the recent local victories, let’s not hang up a “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet; we still have a long way to go. In this debate, some have argued that $15 is too big of a jump. On the contrary, it does not go far enough.

First and foremost, $15 is not enough for King County families to meet basic needs.

In August, the Alliance for a Just Society and Washington Community Action Network jointly released “Families Out of Balance,” which calculates basic expenses for King County residents.

The report finds that the hourly wage full-time workers in King County need to make basic ends meet, ranges from $17.37 an hour for a single individual to $34.46 for a single adult with two children. These calculations include food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, household, small savings, child care and tax costs. They assume a 40-hour workweek. (See http://www.thejobgap.org.)

Meanwhile, if you can’t make ends meet, it’s not as simple as just finding another job. Another study the Alliance released last year found that, for every living wage job for a single individual in Washington state, there are eight job-seekers.

For a single parent with two kids, there are 21 job seekers for every living wage job. Seventy-eight percent of all job openings in Washington don’t pay enough for that parent to survive.

Quite simply, many King County families aren’t making ends meet, and $15 is not a living wage.

Our improved minimum wage falls short by other measures as well. A Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that, had the federal minimum wage kept up with economic productivity, it should have been $21.72 an hour in 2012, about three times the current minimum wage.

It is also worth noting that several exceptions have watered down the policy. The Seattle minimum wage is phased-in, getting to $15 an hour gradually between 2017 and 2021, depending on the size of the business and whether it offers health care.

The Seattle wage schedule gets us closer to an actual living wage than we’ve been in the history of our living wage study, which goes back to 1999. But in reality, it remains a modest step in the right direction.

In the end, the triumph of $15 is that it was a bottom-up approach to progressive policy change that succeeded. After all, it was Seattle’s low-wage workers who first had the courage to demand a $15 minimum wage — and they got it.

Many families face impossible balance sheets, paying living costs, maybe student loan debt or medical bills, and are having excruciating kitchen table conversations.

A $15 minimum wage is a huge step in the right direction, but we must remember that this is only the beginning in the movement for a more prosperous Washington and America.

This article originally appeared at the South Seattle Emerald.

Daley Weekly: Views on the National News

Women’s Health Care

The Alliance for a Just Society has produced a report that grades states on how well they provide health care for women: 2014 Women’s Health Report Card. The grades given in the report are based on detailed analyses of health care outcomes, coverage, and access. Those advocating for the expansion of Medicaid coverage should find this analysis useful – lots of non-expansion states get an F.  You can have a copy of this report delivered directly to you by clicking on the following link: http://allianceforajustsociety.org/womenshealth/.

Ebola

A second health worker in Dallas has the disease and had actually gone on an airline flight.

In Africa it continues to rage. The World Health Organization just jumped up the projections about the spread of infections from 1,000 a week to 10,000 a week. The disease is taking hold in urbanized Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Officials in Sierra Leone have essentially admitted that the epidemic has defeated them and are permitting victims to be treated in homes by their families.

The epidemic is seeping out around the edges. Ebola deaths in Texas and Germany. A nurse with Ebola in Spain. Two from Dallas.

Hospital workers in Spain verged on the charging that they were untrained and unequipped. Nurses in the U.S. are raising questions about training and equipment.

So a new aspect of the epidemic is emerging – how do we ask health care workers to care for these victims when it poses such a threat to their personal health?

And the worst is beginning to happen – panic.

Next up: Ask your favorite airline flight attendants how they feel when flying in enclosed spaces with folks from all over the world.

Ferguson

The protests keep going. Lots of folks arrested during the Moral Monday protests this week. The Alliance’s Libero Della Piana was there. Check out his report: http://allianceforajustsociety.org/2014/10/ferguson-october-draws-a-rainbow-of-solidarity/.

Economics

The last employment report showed that the U.S. economy was beginning to produce jobs at a fairly healthy pace and that the U.S. unemployment rate had dropped under 6 percent for the first time since the Great Recession. Worries now are that the austerity policies in Europe are harming international economic growth and will have an impact here.

Reports out of Europe suggest that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be reevaluating her insistence on austerity because the German economy is getting recession jitters. It is about time. This ideological program has only made things worse. Maybe Merkel will also reevaluate her insistence that the austerity program be grafted onto the debt relief packages for Portugal, Greece, and Spain where these policies have mired those countries in long term, depression-level unemployment.

As austerity strangles Europe’s economy, get ready to start choking here in the U.S.

Should the Republicans take over the Senate any chance to stimulate our economy in order to keep the recovery going will evaporate. Folks who don’t think that this is a problem should take a look at a report written by Standard and Poor’s How Increasing Income Inequality Is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, And Possible Ways To Change The Tidehttps://www.globalcreditportal.com/ratingsdirect/renderArticle.do?articleId=1351366&SctArtId=255732&from=CM&nsl_code=LIME&sourceObjectId=8741033&sourceRevId=1&fee_ind=N&exp_date=20240804-19:41:13.

Too Big to Jail

Interesting pick for the Nobel Prize in Economics. They chose Jean Tirole, a French economics professor from Toulouse who specializes in how to regulate corporations. Tirole has argued for stronger regulation of banks after the financial meltdown.

In announcing the award the chairman of the selections committee asked, “What sort of regulations do we want to put in place so large and mighty firms will act in society’s interest?”

Voting

The Supreme Court issued a stay against the implementation of a Wisconsin voter I.D. law that had been ruled constitutional just three days earlier by a lower court. A federal judge in Texas issued a similar ruling because the Texas law had “impermissible discriminatory effects against Hispanics and African Americans.”

Elections

A few issues back the Weekly raised the possibility of an Independent Caucus taking over the U.S. Senate. Chances of this may be improving as South Dakota Independent Larry Pressler is moving up in recent polls and may take a lead by election time. If Pressler and Greg Ormond win in South Dakota and Kansas, there will be four Independents and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats will achieve a clear Senate Majority.

One possible Democratic senate pick up may be going away. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes, running a close race with Mitch McConnell, refused repeatedly to say how she voted in the 2012 presidential election. The bloggers speculate that her refusal is intended to hide a vote for Obama who is unpopular in Kentucky. What about the possibility that she actually voted for Mitt Romney? Either way the strategy of silence did not look good and will have an impact on her support in a close race.

Musical Chairs

We were going to fool around a bit with the five-week absence from public view of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader with the hair that looks like the boss in Dilbert. Kim ruined all the fun by surfacing in public the other day smiling and shuffling papers and being in charge of stuff. During his absence a group of North Korean officials, including army officers and Kim’s senior advisors, suddenly showed up in South Korea for unplanned talks with South Korean officials. No word on what they wanted to talk about but they apparently got a free lunch out of it. Don’t be surprised if Kim vanishes again.

Speaking of vanishing, your friendly Weekly reporter is going to do a bit of vanishing himself – for a vacation. Not to worry. Your access to the important information included in these essays will continue. The next four Weekly editions will be authored by Libero Della Piana.

Main Street Business Owners Stand Together to Support Fair Wages and Workplace Policies

By Stephen Michael

Main Street Alliance business owners across the country are proud to stand with our partners in Oakland at EBASE to support raising the minimum wage and increasing access to paid sick days.

Rising income inequality is the moral and economic challenge of our time. Main Street business owners understand that small business success is directly tied to the economic vitality of the communities in which they do business.  The increasing wealth gap not only harms low-income people, it also creates a downward spiral of falling demand that hurts small businesses.

We know that consumer demand drives the Main Street economy. Our employees are our neighbor’s customers and when workers have more money, businesses have more customers. With an increased customer base businesses can hire more workers, in turn further increasing clientele. In this continuous cycle, increasing economic security for workers provides a boost to the bottom line of local small businesses.

Every job should be an economy-boosting job, which means jobs that pay a family-wage and provide access to basic workplace standards such as paid sick days. We all get sick, but not all of us have the time to recover—and that affects us all. By allowing our employees to earn paid sick days, small business owners increase productivity and save money in the long run. Employees who come to work sick are less productive and recover more slowly. They’re also likely to spread illness to co-workers, which reduces productivity and increases absenteeism. Earned sick days also help to retain good employees and keep turnover costs at a minimum.

At The Main Street Alliance, we’re excited that there’s growing support in cities and states throughout the country for necessary, common sense workplace policies and raising the minimum wage. Together we can help redefine “good business practices” and lift up the real voices of small business owners.

 

 

 

Report Card: States Rejecting Medicaid Expansion Get Poorest Grades on Women’s Health

The Alliance for a Just Society has released a Women’s Health Report Card that reveals which states get poor and failing grades when it comes to women’s health and to ensuring access to quality, affordable and timely health care – important measures of states’ public health infrastructure.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Contact: Kathy Mulady,

STATES REJECTING MEDICAID EXPANSION GET POOREST GRADES ON WOMEN’S HEALTH, ACCORDING TO NEW 50-STATE REPORT CARD

Report card highlights persistent racial disparities in women’s health in every state

Seattle, WA—Seventeen of the 21 states that rejected federal funds to expand health coverage through Medicaid received final grades of C, D or F in a new 50-state report card on women’s health – and 13 states got a D or F grade. Even in states with better overall grades, persistent racial disparities indicate that most states are failing to meet the health care needs of women of color.
States with the worst grades when it comes to women’s health are Mississippi (ranked #50), Oklahoma (#49), Texas (#48), Nevada (#47) and Arkansas (#46). States with the best rankings are Massachusetts (#1), Connecticut (#2), Hawaii and Vermont (tied for #3) and Minnesota (#5).
The Promise of Quality, Affordable Health Care for Women: Are States Delivering? is a 50-state report card on women’s health released today by the Alliance for a Just Society. The report card provides an important measure of states’ records on women’s health as politicians court women voters ahead of the November elections, and continue to debate whether to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage in more than 20 states.
The 50-state report card is available at: http://www.allianceforajustsociety.org/womenshealth
“This report card shows that most of the states that are still refusing funding for Medicaid expansion have poor or failing records on women’s health. These states are failing women and the families that depend on them,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “It’s time for governors and legislators in these states – from Texas to Maine and Florida to Montana – to move forward with expanding health coverage to uninsured women through Medicaid.”
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) credits the Affordable Care Act with helping improve women’s health through expanded coverage, cost-free access to contraception and other preventive health services, and the elimination of gender-based insurance discrimination.
“While many states are making critical progress on women’s health thanks to the Affordable Care Act, this Report Card underscores that we must do more, starting with getting every state to cover low-income women through Medicaid,” said Schakowsky.
States with poor records have the opportunity to improve women’s health coverage by accepting federal money to expand Medicaid, said Judy Waxman, vice president for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center.
“But if leaders in these states continue to drag their feet, they’re only going to fall further behind. No woman should be denied health care for any reason,” said Waxman.
The report card shows that all 50 states are failing to meet the health care needs of women of color. Latina women are uninsured at much higher rates than other women in almost every state. Black, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American women have worse outcomes on key health measures in most states.
“These race-based differences are shocking – and unacceptable. These disparities make it clear that the debate over Medicaid expansion must end,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “It’s time for politicians to stop bickering and take action to improve health for all women – including women of color – by moving forward with Medicaid expansion.”
With women making up an increasing share of primary breadwinners, women’s health is of critical importance for family economic security.
“Low-income women in more than 20 states who are doing everything they can to support their families are being denied access to affordable health care because of state leaders’ stubborn refusal to accept the federal funding to expand Medicaid,” said Yael Foa, outreach director for Working America.
“This is a national issue, and it hits working class people the hardest. In some cases, women are patching together a living through 2, 3 or 4 part-time jobs that don’t offer health care,” said Foa. “Our families and our economy depend on women. Women should be able to depend on their states for quality, affordable health care.”
The Promise of Quality, Affordable Health Care for Women: Are States Delivering? report card uses the latest available data from government and other sources to rank the 50 states on 30 measures relating to women’s health. It generates state rankings and grades in three subject areas (health coverage, access to care, and health outcomes), an assessment of race-based disparities, and a final rank and grade for every state. It includes specific recommendations for improving women’s health.
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The Alliance for a Just Society is a national policy, research and organizing network focused on racial and economic justice. The Alliance has produced pivotal reports on state and national health issues including Medicaid/CHIP, prescription drugs, and insurance industry practices for 20 years.

www.allianceforajustsociety.org

Ferguson October Draws a Rainbow of Solidarity

In the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, the case of Dred Scott was first heard in 1847. Dred Scott and his family sued for freedom from their slave owner on the grounds that they had been removed from a “slave state” and brought to U.S. territories in which slavery was illegal.

The case ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1857 ruled that Scott had no standing to sue for rights under U.S. law since no black person – free or slave – was a citizen of the United States.

Fast forward to this past weekend: October 11-12, 2014. Three thousand protesters from throughout the country gathered in the literal and figurative shadow of the Old Courthouse to call for justice in the police killing of Michael Brown two months earlier in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.

The Ferguson October weekend of action and resistance is four days of protest, forums, discussion, prayer, and reflection aimed at putting a spotlight on Mike Brown’s killing and the broader issues of police brutality and accountability nationwide.

One of the most striking things about the event is its breadth and diversity.

Saturday’s march, titled “Justice for All” had a large local contingent, but also drew students from colleges such as Grinnell University, Howard University, University of Cincinnati and many others.

Carpools arrived from as far away as California, Florida, Maine and Washington state. Large groups of young African Americans came heeding the call “Black Lives Matter!” – but so did Latino, Arab, Asian and white marchers. Signs were in Korean, Spanish, Arabic and English. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, all faiths, and Atheists, were represented.

Activists from the environmental justice movement, Palestine solidarity movement, immigrant rights movement and the civil rights movement, both new and old were here in solidarity. Labor unions, community organizations, student groups and churches marched behind their banners.

All ages participated, from babes in arms to 90-year-old human rights activist and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. The mood was somehow both mournful and exuberant.

The Alliance for a Just Society joined with dozens of organizations in endorsing Ferguson October and calling for justice for Mike Brown.

One of the greatest accomplishments of the movement in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area in the past two months is the development of a dynamic group of young people who have been peacefully marching, protesting and calling for Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown to be indicted. The grand jury had its deadline extended into 2015, a delay that leaves the family and the community waiting for answers.

These young people – many of them sleeping in tents in and around Ferguson for weeks ­– have been harassed, arrested, tear gassed and vilified by authorities ever since the police turned peaceful protests into an uprising eight weeks ago. Rev. Renita Lamkin from St. Charles, Missouri has spent weeks working with local youth and mediating with police during almost nightly confrontations. She was hit with rubber bullets fired by police recently while working to keep the peace.

Speaking to the assembled crowd Saturday, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou said he believes a national movement against police brutality has begun in Ferguson.

“The blood of Mike Brown has seeded a great revolution in this country,” said Rev. Sekou

Meetings throughout the weekend discussed taking the movement outward both to keep attention on the unresolved situation in Ferguson, but also to address the everyday experience of racist policing across the country. Whether this moment in history can become a historic movement is up to the organizers and activists heading home after this weekend. But many here believe there is a unique and rare opportunity to make headway on these issues right now.

The system of racism that subjects black people in particular, and people of color generally, to all sorts of indignity, suffering and death may not seem that different that the one that enslaved Dred Scott one hundred and fifty years ago. But one thing that has changed is the rainbow of support and solidarity that was represented here this weekend. It reminds us all that Michael Brown was a human being deserving of rights and life, and that black lives matter. To all of us.